The First Lady and President of the Organisation of African First Ladies Against HIV/AIDS (OAFLA), Mrs. Lordina Mahama, has called on the international community, donors and partners to assist Africa to close the immunisation gap among children.
She said, regardless of where children were born, who they were or where they lived, they had the right to survive.
She, accordingly, urged the First Ladies of Africa and OAFLA members to seize the opportunity to strengthen ties with GAVI, The Vaccine Alliance, an international organisation, in their respective countries to protect the African child.
Mrs Mahama, made the call when she opened a high-level working lunch organised by OAFLA, in collaboration with the GAVI The Vaccine Alliance.
The working lunch, which was on the theme, “Unfinished business with child health in Africa”, was held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, during the16th Ordinary General Assembly of OAFLA.
“We have been blessed with sustained support from development partners and faith-based organisations and as members of OAFLA we have to lobby our governments, benevolent organisations, international non-governmental organisations, as well as corporate Africa, to ensure that we finish the business of child health,” Mrs Mahama said.
She said Ghana was on record to have eliminated maternal and neonatal tetanus (MNT) since 2011, while cases and deaths from pneumonia and diarrhoea
in children had drastically reduced since the introduction of effective vaccines.
According to her, the overall successful programme in immunisation had contributed to a reduction in deaths in children from 111 in 2003 to 60 per 1,000 live births in 2014.
Mrs Mahama said about two to three decades ago, measles was a major cause of admission and death of children under five in Ghana but told the gathering that for the past 13 years no child in Ghana had died from measles.
She said the last time Ghana recorded a polio case was in 2008, adding that it was poised to make history with the rest of the world in the fight against the disease.
The First Lady noted that Ghana had prioritised the Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) which resulted in about 95 per cent of infants receiving a third dose of DPT (Diphtheria, Pertussis and Tetanus) used for primary immunisation.
“Ghana has, indeed, come a long way in improving the health of mothers and children,” she said.
The President of OAFLA said in the early 1980s, only 25 per cent of infants in Ghana had access to life-saving vaccines but currently parents and
caregivers recognise the importance of protecting their children through vaccination.
“In rural Africa, where access to health care can be difficult, immunisation presents the best chance of survival against life-threatening childhood diseases,” she stressed.
Partnership, she noted, was paramount to the work of OAFLA and was extremely pleased with the collaboration between OAFLA and the GAVI Alliance, as both teams shared experiences in improving immunisation for children on the continent.
“The vision of OAFLA is to see an Africa free from HIV and AIDS and maternal and child mortality; where women and children are empowered to enjoy equal opportunities.
“I am, therefore, honoured to share my country’s efforts to improve immunisation coverage as one of the strategies for a reduction in child and maternal mortality,” she said.
The Deputy Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of GAVI, Ms Anuradha Gupta, said the 2016-2010 strategic framework for GAVI would guide its mission to save children’s lives and protect people’s health by increasing equitable use of vaccines in low-income countries for the next five years.
She said the framework included operating principles, strategic goals and progress indicators, which all align with and contributed to the global vaccine plan and the post-2015 sustainability agenda.
She said GAVI would continue to support developing countries to introduce and increase access to vaccines, so that they would be able to protect every child with a full package of WHO-recommended life-saving vaccines.